Planning travel in advance can be like performing a complicated dance routine. You need to have good rhythm to make the right moves at the right time, and be thinking ahead about what step comes next: booking your tour or your flights?
You might be asking yourself “when should I start planning a trip to Europe?” or Australia or the USA or Asia, and while it depends on many different factors, planning ahead is the best course of action. If you know what flights, tours and transport you want then you can strike when you see the right deal. Money you save when booking your grand overseas adventure can be used for shopping and dining out when you arrive. That’s a win!
When to start planning a vacation depends on the season, where you want to go and if it is for a special annual event. Read on to discover nine incredible travel experiences that you should definitely start planning for at least a year in advance.
1. Northern Lights
So many people wait years (or a lifetime) to experience the Northern Lights. Sitting at the top of so many bucket lists, this incredible travel experience takes planning in advance and once there, the conditions need to be perfect for the spectacular natural display to occur. Yes, you can trek out towards the Arctic but mother nature has to cooperate too. December to March are the best months to catch the lights, thanks to longer nights and clear skies. The closer you are to the Arctic Circle the better, so places like Canada, Iceland, Alaska, Greenland, Norway, Sweden and Finland are the top spots to view the lights.
GET INSPIRED: Scandinavian Northern Lights
Another destination that people dream about visiting one day is Australia. The giant island continent known for white sandy beaches, the Great Barrier Reef, the Outback and its strange and dangerous wildlife is a very long flight from most places. That means planning your travel in advance is necessary as you will want to visit for a minimum of two weeks, but more likely a whole month.
When to start planning a vacation to the land down under depends on the season and what you would like to experience. Snorkelling the Great Barrier Reef is an obvious must-do activity, as is seeing the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge. In our experience at Trafalgar, it’s the remote Outback experiences like trips to the incredible Kimberley that sell out fastest due to smaller capacity.
GET INSPIRED: Highlights of Australia and New Zealand
3. Cherry blossoms in Japan
While spring blossoms certainly bloom in other parts of the world, nowhere else on earth can match the celebration of the Japan sakura. The short but magical cherry blossom season lasts just a few weeks and falls between late March and early April as winter gives way to spring. The usually charming streets, canals and parks of Japan are flooded with a sea of pretty pink blossoms, making for a memorable trip you will always remember.
If you are interested in seeing the cherry blossom season (or sakura) in Japan in 2022 or 2023, you need to be planning your travel at least 12 months in advance.
GET INSPIRED: Classic Japan
4. Europe in summer
When should I start planning a trip to Europe? ASAP is the answer! If you leave planning and booking your grand multi-country Euro tour until the last minute, you might like to start praying directly to Vatican City itself. Travelling Europe in the summer months is extremely popular and while you may find availability on one of our incredible Trafalgar tours, many of our guests like to extend their stay. If you plan to spend extra nights before or after your tour, or lock in flights at a reasonable rate in peak season, think about planning your travel in advance.
Other times you should start planning a trip to Europe at least a year in advance are for big or special events such as the ever popular Oktoberfest or Hogmanay, or the once-in-a-decade Oberammergau Passion Play.
GET INSPIRED: Highlights of Eastern Europe
5. Fall in the USA
Sweater weather, hot apple cider, pumpkin spice lattes, and of course, watching the leaves change from lush green to vibrant gold, burnt orange and warm red. Experiencing a magical autumn in the Eastern US states is a bucket list trip for many. To catch the peak leaf peeping season you have to travel at the right time, and to the right place. While you might spot a last-minute deal, start planning your vacation to the USA a year in advance. From late September through October the states of Maine, New York, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont are popular destinations for fall.
GET INSPIRED: Autumn Colours
6. Carnival in Brazil
Escape the northern hemisphere winter and chase a summer of samba in Brazil. Every February the mega Latin American country hosts Carnival parades all over the country. Part of the local identity, following the rhythm down the streets of Rio de Janeiro is a bucket-list experience to take part in. The dates change each year, so planning your travel in advance is critical.
GET INSPIRED: Icons of South America
7. Safari in Africa
If you’ve never been on safari in Africa, it takes research and planning even if you choose to do it with an all-inclusive tour company. Before booking you need to decide which area of Africa to explore as different regions offer different quality and quantity of wildlife. You also need to choose the best season for that area and what type of safari you’d like to do.
For example, both Kenya and Tanzania are incredible countries to go on safari in. Both are home to the Big Five and the Great Migration, but Kenya is also known for its big cats, black rhinos and exotic animals like the sitatunga, while Tanzania has the world’s largest concentration of animals including cheetahs, tree-climbing lions and African wild dogs.
GET INSPIRED: Essence of South Africa
Standing on the Great Wall of China, a magnificent feat of architecture with more than 2000 years of history, requires prior planning. It might be 21,196 kilometres long, but the wall is in a rural area two hours from Beijing, making it hard to reach without a tour.
Planning a trip to China is more complex than booking flights. You likely need a special visa, vaccinations and then, of course, there is the language and internet barrier. If you prefer to travel independently, consider a tour for China so you spend less time deciphering signs and more time enjoying the country.
GET INSPIRED: Iconic China with Yangtze Cruise
9. Machu Picchu
Set at more than 7,000 feet above sea level high in the Andes Mountains, reaching the ancient Incan Empire takes plenty of travel planning in advance. Built around 1450AD, this popular tourist destination in Peru was named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2007 and is high on the bucket list for many people. Coordinating a trip to Machu Picchu has its challenges. While many choose to hike along the standard Inca Trail, which takes four to five days, you can visit in a day.
GET INSPIRED: In the Footsteps of the Incas
Still have questions like when should I start planning a trip to Europe? Or when to start planning a vacation to Africa? Let us know in the comments…